The US Food and Drug Administration has given the all clear for novel food ingredient to bear a tooth-friendly health claim - undoubtedly a crucial step in the success of the ingredient for its supplier, Danish company Arla Food Ingredients.
In January 2002 Arla Foods Ingredients filed a petition with the FDA requesting that it amend the rules to include the sugar D-tagatose as eligible to bear the dental caries health claim. In addition, it sought to exclude D-tagatose from the definition of 'sugars', thereby allowing a 'sugar free' nutrient content.
Based on the available evidence, the FDA concluded that there was enough scientific agreement to suggest that D-tagatose does not promote dental caries and that it could carry a dental caries health claim.
The decision led to an interim final rule published recently. This week the FDA is adopting as a final rule, without change, the provisions.
However the agency upheld its previous position on the sugar free claim, asserting that "it would be false and misleading for D-tagatose containing foods to bear a 'sugar free' claim because D-tagatose is a sugar".
But to address the incongruity of a sugar-containing food bearing the dental caries health claim and to inform consumers about D-tagatose as a non-cariogenic sugar, the FDA has added the requirement that "the claim identify D-tagatose as a sugar that, unlike other sugars, does not promote the development of dental caries".
As such, although products containing D-tagatose are not permitted to be labelled as 'sugar-free', they are authorised to state that D- tagatose sugar does not promote, or may reduce the risk of, tooth decay.
In 2002 German sugar giant Nordzucker entered into a joint venture with Danish food group Arla Foods to produce tagatose, patented by US company Spherix. Following the construction of the first production facility for this full-bulk sweetener, Arla is planning to market tagatose by the summer of 2003.